Suitcases and rainy Glasgow. Just the thought brings back memories of silent midnight rowing lit only by macabre moonlight and the reflection of drizzle on the hypnotic silver surface of the Loch.
There have been a few ex-colleagues that have journeyed far across various oceans in suitcases over the years. Two in particular departed Glesga via the River Clyde and a certain well known picturesque salmon Loch up in the highlands, some 150 kms away on the same night, with nothing but coils of rusty chain for company. No wonder free range Scottish salmon is so widely famed for its unique flavour. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'ecological food chain'.
Next time you are in the market choosing fish for supper do spare a thought for some old friends that sometimes surface for dinner.
The secret is always in the cutting and the preparation. Sliced and diced is always better than chunks and lumps. These days you simply cannae put your hands on an axe with such a quality keen head that sharp. I blame it on the downturn in the global economy, that and the miracle of DNA profiling.
What's written above? I joke of course.... except maybe for that one time.
For the spinach eggs feast you will need:
4 large brown free range eggs.
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled, but for the sake of the holy mother herself, never broken, gently crumbled...
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, Scottish of course, the other muck on offer will just not do.
3/4 lb baby spinach, coarsely chopped to the sound of your favourite tune being played on the wireless.
2 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, previously chilled, just like the frosty withering look of your mother-in-law discovering that the 3 remaining sheets of toilet paper cost you less than the Easter TV times supplement.
Whisk together eggs and tarragon in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over a moderate heat, then cook spinach, stirring occasionally, until just wilted.
Add the egg mixture and cream cheese as delicately as a young Catholic Nun tinkling in a fresh water stream high above the Grampians mountains on a winters morning and cook, stirring slowly, until the eggs are just set, about 3 minutes.
Serve and enjoy with perhaps a generous round of black pudding seasoned with white pepper and a sprig or two of lollo rosso. Be really adventurous and add a mid-morning glass of crisp white wine, to hell with what the neighbours think.
Which reminds me.
As even the most erstwhile and erudite of Glasgow schoolboy scholars will testify, the legendary Hannibal, a mere Carthaginian achieved the impossible in a surprisingly short period of time. One of his most famous achievements was at the outbreak of the Second Punic War, when he marched an entire army, which included war elephants, from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy on a quest for the holy grape purely on a diet consisting of little more than yak's milk, aged duck eggs and stale bacon grease.
An army marches on its stomach some of you will cry. Absolute pish? Not so, will be my staunch reply.
Picture the scene if you will.
After a hearty lunch of succulent Spanish hog, freshly murdered, smothered in garlic, rosemary and basted with an aromatic apple based glaze before being slowly spit-roasted for three mouth-wateringly long hours.
We, that is the Chef, the brother-in-law, the asthmatic taxi driver who brought us fae the airport and never left, as well as the big ugly Glaswegian fellow decided to embark on a wine seeking quest of our own to the mountainous regions above the holiday isle of which we are currently encamped.
When I say camped I should really ask you to think villa, not a canvas contraption held together by boy scout knots and pieces of stiffened string, situated by a roaring fireside made fae auld dry twigs and hand rolled bear feces. Old bones and hard ground do not a good match make. Don't even get me started on the appalling lack of toiletry requirements needed by gentlemen over the age of 50 with bar-room bowels that are to beer what the Hindenburg was to gas.
Wine is the nectar of the Spanish Gods, a humble grape ripened in the sun, fertilised by only the most exact science of soils before being crushed and bruised without the danger of suppuration setting in, to make the most rewarding elixir of all the vines, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Cariñea and Monastrell.
Before you know it, hey presto - vino español. The good stuff, not the cheap dessert stuff that the most beautiful woman in our circle recently spat into a flowerpot while dining out with friends. No one else saw you do it Pat, your secret is safe with me.
Five hours later, with a flat tyre and a taxi driver by the name of Roth, who speaks very little of any language apart from something that sounds guttural enough to be Turkish but is probably East Anglian, and lost in the black hole of a monastery town somewhere up the side of an uncharted section of our 1976 bi folding map, we begin to lose our ardor for the grape. In fact it has just dawned on us that the Scotland game kicks off in less than forty five minutes and the bar of the villa is stocked with a full host of ice cold bottles of German lager with our names on them.
Okay, probably not our real names. McFadyen, McInerney, Kavanagh and Brady are hardly your average baronial surnames festooned on the side of cold-sweating beer bottles, made in Deuffle Strasse just outside of München Hauptbahnhof by the war memorial, opposite the small traditional Austrian brasserie, where schnitzel and beer dominate the conversation. Not unless this wee tale was being rewritten of course by Tim Burton's Corpse Bride brigade after a hefty lunch of German sausage and bratwurst fillet. It's not. It is being cobbled together by a tall Glaswegian with good teeth, but a bad attitude, who quite fancies himself as a chef with a hankering for a good bottle of wine with his supper.
So... as I was saying earlier, Hannibal may well have made it down the mountainside with his baw-bag hordes of rapscallion warriors aboard their dusty elephants, ears flapping, great grey arses dropping steaming piles of dung and trumpeting for all the world to hear in only three calender months.
We, however, made it down fae the top of a very steep hill in fourth gear, with an overheated radiator, a flat tyre, a couple of weary bladders, one hell of a thirst and five cases of exceptional plonk in 35 minutes flat. Not one lumbering creature in sight and not a drop of anything spilled. Not unless you count the incontinent cab driver of course, but that's another story still to be told.